Review: LARP by Justin Calderone (DNF)

LARP by Justin Calderone

Title: LARP: The Battle For Verona
Author: Justin Calderone
Published: December 12th 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Adult Contemporary Fantasy
Source: Netgalley


Sometimes even a geek can become a hero.

Dennis and his friends have been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since high school. Now, in his 20s, Dennis is seriously considering giving up LARPing for good. He’s tired of dealing with his overzealous friend Mark; he’s tired of his older brother Brad’s constant put-downs; and he’s tired of the fact that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Check that. Not a girlfriend, but the girlfriend.Alyssa—the one woman he’s been pining over for years.

Dennis and his fellow LARPers have never been considered cool, in their small island community of Verona, located off the coast of Washington State.

But all of that is about to change . . .

While Dennis and his friends are attending a big LARP tournament on the mainland, a rogue terrorist group of Mongolians in medieval garb, led by an American madman, invade Verona and take its citizens hostage—including their families and friends.

When the LARPers find out what’s happening in their home-town, they do what any dedicated LARPer would do: they put on their armor, strap on their swords, and fight their way home—LARP-style!

I was immediately hooked on the premise of this story. A bunch of LARP geeks fighting for family and island-dom? Yes, please. It sounded like an awesomely fun romp.

The execution, however, was not as great as I’d have hoped. I found the story to be very draggy and difficult to get into. It could have done with another round or two of editing, I believe. The exposition is handled pretty heavy handed, and some of the facts about the characters are repeated more times than necessary.

It begins with a false start where the mighty warrior gazes out over his enemies, only to get knocked back to reality, in which he is a twenty something guy realizing that he may not get everything he wanted out of life. Dennis has achieved a certain measure of success in life: he has a degree to his name, a good job, a car, nice place to live, etc. But that’s not enough, because he lacks the two things that will make live worth living: a girl, and his brother’s respect.

Dennis is a member of the local LARP team, along with his two best friends, Fred who is constantly stuck in the middle, and Mark who drives everyone insane because he is just such an annoying power gamer. They have been friends since high school when Dennis stopped hiding behind his older brother’s big man on campus reputation and saved Mark and Fred from a couple of bullies. They then introduced him to the wonders of LARPing. Now, all fully grown, they are still LARPing regularly, but Dennis has not been feeling the love for the last couple of years. The reason for that? Mark being kind of a tool.

As you may expect, during the LARP battle, Mark behaves like we’ve been told he will (i.e. a tool) and gets himself and Dennis’ character killed. Cue Dennis jumping in his car and flouncing out in a fit of temper, vowing to never LARP again. At which point I lost a lot of respect for Dennis as a character. He is a grown man, for goodness’ sake. Did it not occur to him at any point to confront Mark and point out what a bonehead he is? Sure, Mark is the Game Master, but did none of the other players ever decide to step up and take the reigns from him? In what universe do you continue to game with a guy who embarrasses you and himself and makes life unbearable for everyone around? Was there absolutely no one willing to stand up for themselves? And you want me to believe these are the kind of people who will defeat a Mongolian horde? Eish, no.

I’ll admit, I stopped reading at this point. Perhaps the story gets better, perhaps the latter half would have knocked my socks off, but truthfully, these characters were just not people I wanted to spend any more time with.

Did Not Finish

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